Azerbaijani Legend: Brothers
The lore from different countries usually explores topics that are close to the nation's heart itself. It might be told differently but at the end of the day, the issues and values people care about the most will mirror themselves in various versions of folklore, from poems to prose but, dare we say, most importantly legends. Legends do not come from a specific person, they don't belong to anyone in particular, in their absolute freedom they travel from a person to a person, from mother to a daughter, only existing and alive if they're spread around. It is pretty obvious from Azerbaijan's folklore that for this nation the main topics of concern and interest have always been bravery and justice, kindness and love. In any shape of form, love has been a constant present in their lives and minds. We also argue, that one of the strongest love bonds are those sealed between siblings, both those who were tied by blood and not. Today's azerbaijani legend will explore the story of brothers who went together against everything they counted as injustice and succeeded because of their similarities, not differences.
It is obvious, that living in the century of Internet and technology, we have seen a lot of examples of sibling love in the media. Examples are endless, from the painful fall-out of those, who cared about each other the most, to the showcases of strength of staying strong together, despite facing death. But many centuries ago, people just only started exploring those topics in their stories. Somewhere in Gusar district, up in the mountains where the peaks were carelessly touching the skies, in an ordinary village where everyone knew everyone, lived two young boys. They proudly announced each other brothers as small kids, though in no way they were related to each other by blood.
They had a quiet happy childhood, running around the streets with play-pretend swords and fighting imaginary monsters they met on their way. As they grew older, their priorities changed, the games turned into sneaking out at midnights and sitting under the big old tree in the field. The whispered secrets they shared for only them and the stars to witness were about achieving in life and becoming the courageous men their fathers told the stories about. There and then two young souls promised to stay by each other's side for evermore. The brothers, being as close as they are, yet couldn't get any more different. They were like fire and water: hot-headed thinking against clear mind, stubbornness against the compromising nature.
The country those 'brothers' were born into at that point was weakening day by day, losing the power it seemed to have for decades prior, which resulted in another country's army from south taking over the reins. This way, their village faced the mistreatment from the new government, who seemingly only cared for the goods new lands were capable of providing. With time, the village turned from a place full of laughter and peace to the faded shadow of what was before. The all grown up boys both were aching to make a difference, seeing their loved ones suffer from hunger because of the people coming in to take almost everything those poor villagers had and leaving them unable to feed themselves or their families. They went differently about it though.
The first one gathered the best men and women the village had and started planning revenge attacks on government’s people who were returning every month, only raising the stakes of what they wanted to take away. They would sit in the bushes along the shaky stone road leading away from the village, waiting for soldiers with goods pass by. The attacks at first were perfectly planned to create an illusion of them being regular bandits. After a successful attack they would bring the food back to the village to spread it around people in need.
The second brother wanted to help from inside, being quite good with studies, especially math, he started climbing to the top, enabling the new government’s trust in him. After some time, he had enough power to convince them enough of his loyalty and finally, was given the post of the mayor. From there he laid the groundwork, mastering his ability to appear innocent while also changing their mind step by step, convincing them that the better strategy would be letting such a rich region bloom for some time and heal from the war. The conditions were becoming better little by little, the dominoes cascading in a line, but the attacks were starting to worry the government too much. Trusting him to help, they shared the ambush they're planning to find the robbers.
Being too late, he only managed to get to a few closest people he knew, warning them, but a lot of villagers were caught. He blamed himself immensely for that, and so did his friend, who was angry at him for not saving someone else instead of his soul. Brothers started meeting in the dark of the night again, under the same old tree, because the reckless one fell out of control, cursing out the overseers the country has assigned to the village to their face, which often turned into punishments, still those he took with pride, keeping a straight face and not making a sound out of pure spite. Being associated with the person who was so publicly against the choices of the leaders could crumble the work the other one has done in seconds, so he asked of him to meet in secret.
Brothers would often get into screaming matches under that tree, pouring all their anger and frustration they have on the world on each other. One would call the mayor a coward, not even trying to understand the choices his friend was making and thinking he was corrupted, while the other one would spit out how reckless and stupid his said 'brother' acts, going absolutely the wrong way about the whole ordeal.
One night somethings changes, when the mayor barges in his friend's house with determination set on his face.
Few days later, the overseers receive a cryptic letter from the mayor himself, in which he asks them to write to the country's center to send their representatives because he might have caught the head of the robbers and he wishes to speak to them privately over such a delicate matter. The permission was given and when representatives entered the room, they were granted a weird scene. The reckless brother standing on his knees with his hands and ankles tied, but with the look of determination painted all over his face. Above him, towering stands the mayor who asks them to sit down and then nudges the person to speak. He has an anger and disappointment, sparkling in his eyes.
"We have thought about it carefully. I am the leader of people who decided to riot against your wishes. I do not fear death and I do not fear punishment, but for all I care, it's best for you to listen to me and do it intently” he takes another deep breath before speaking up again. "For past years my village has faced a lot of suffering. By your hands, kids were dying from hunger. Animals we have, falling on the ground, starved and tired. We couldn't bear it anymore, and it’s not our fault it ended up in such violence. There are many of us, countless. I came here out of my free will, and if I shall die here, I’ll do it out of my free will. But whether you kill me or not, if you don't go by our conditions right now, the rest will continue my legacy. Take a look around, the nearby villages have been discomforted too, they're angry too. We don't ask for much: leave us enough to pay our debts and be healthy and no marauders will ever touch your fair share ever again."
It took some time to set the rules, a lot of convincing from the mayor's side and the settled agreement before the people begrudgingly went away. The moment the heavy door closed behind them, the mayor falls to his knees, untying the knots on the wrists of his friend and lunches him into a firm hug. Brothers both start weeping in happiness, finally understanding that the worst part for their homeland is over. The blood, the starvation, the punishments. They quickly send off a person to tell everyone happy news.
Time flied, and soon enough the village seemingly recovered. They were living peacefully again, the two brothers meeting everyday under the same old tree that watched them grow up, now however talking about their lives and the things they achieved together. It was a normal, mundane life the both brothers craved. Their families intertwining purely because of the bond that goes beyond relations and blood. Actively deciding to stay strong as a unit.
This azerbaijani legends not only tells a story about bravery as we all know it, it also undercovers how much bravery lies in having patience as well as how much of it depends on allowing yourself to not work alone, forming an alliance to have a better outcome rather than working against each other's differences. It's teaching us of being able to see your mistakes as well as others, of thinking beyond your restlessness and of being brave enough to finally face your problems when it's needed. The rich culture of Azerbaijan goes beyond painting something red and calling it a day, so if you wish to have a deeper dive into it, Azerbaijan Travel International suggests you taking on some of our tours, that guarantee you the good quality and pleasant memories for long years to come, specifically our Guba-Shahdag tour, that takes you to the homeland of this legend specifically.